Last night I tuned into the latest season of The Biggest Loser. And, as always, the contestants and their stories hit uncomfortably close to home for me.
As I sit there enjoying my low-fat mint chocolate chip ice cream cup topped with a dollop of lite whipped topping, it’s incredibly difficult to watch these 200, 300, 400, and even 500 pound men and women – many of whom are also in their twenties – struggle just to walk on the treadmill…or even simply stand up.
I can see the pain in their eyes, and it’s like looking into a mirror.
They all tell their stories of how they came to be the size they are today, and they all say the same things: I was always overweight, I was picked on by my classmates, my family life wasn’t good, etc. I know exactly how each and every one of them feels, and I wouldn’t wish the torment of being trapped inside all of that fat on anyone.
The worst part about it all is that those of us who have experienced what it’s like to be obese have nobody else to blame but ourselves. Sometimes I almost wish I had some other disability beyond my addiction to food…something that was genetic, that I was born with. Something that I physically could not control. Because the knowledge that I feel worthless as a human being because I have chosen to gorge myself on milkshakes and peanut butter is a guilt that I’ll have to carry around with me always, regardless of the size I currently am on the outside. I can blame my parents for my childhood, but as an adult, I continue to have these issues because of ME and MY own choices.
I may be smaller now, but I have an emotional attachment to food that I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to break. Maybe it’s because of how I was raised, maybe it’s because kids were mean to me, but ultimately, I was the one who slowly and deliberately piled more than 100 pounds of fat onto my body. I’m finally ready to take responsibility for that…but it took me more than 20 years to stop denying that I had any problem at all.
Most of us know the basics of health and proper nutrition (eat less, move more), and yet when faced with the death of my grandparents or the stresses of job hunting, it’s almost like I just didn’t care. You do whatever you need to do in that moment to soothe yourself; for some people, that means a slow drag on a cigarette or several glasses of wine. For me, it meant repeatedly stuffing my hand into a bag of sour cream and onion chips in the privacy of my bedroom, or slurping up a McFlurry in the car on my way home from work. It was my little secret. All you have to do is maintain your denial that nobody else knows your “secret”…even when you split your jeans in high school, or your co-workers watch you order a burger and fries while they stick to salads.
The Biggest Loser is a wake-up call for the people who suffer like I did. I need to watch it for the same reason that I must revisit my “fat” photos on a regular basis. It all reminds me of person I was before, and the person I will never, ever be again.
Just like checking out my residual stretch marks and loose skin in the mirror, watching The Biggest Loser makes it impossible for me to forget how far I’ve come.